Gold Coast Film Festival Review: Broke (Australia, 2016)

It was NRL luminary Jack Gibson who said, In football, if you are standing still, you’re going backwards fast. These words are lived by Heath Davis’s lapsed hero Barry Kelly (played by Steve Le Marquand) and extend to the broader film in the suburban melancholy and missed opportunities of Australian redemption tale, Broke.

Broke begins after the fall, with a homeless Steve Le Marquand in the role of former rugby hero Barry Kelly (BK). After passing out on a cask of wine, Barry finds himself in the house of long-time fan Cec (Max Cullen) along with his daughter and new mother, Teri (Claire Van Der Boom). The extent of BK’s deprivation is revealed, as he steals and attempts to pawn the ashes of Cec’s wife so he can submit to the pull of the pokies and his unfledged gambling addiction.

It’s Cec who makes best attempts to reform the addled hero, succeeding almost, when informing BK of his deceased son who’d spent his opportunities on the wrong things, and in the unity BK brought to his family and the town by succeeding as a football player and flag bearer. BK however never really slows down, his efforts made to restore himself are quickly matched by re-entrance into criminal bearings, and his redemption never really comes into fruition. Still, the film finishes with a ray of optimism and there’s a sedative calmness to the final scene that will make you appreciate the subtleness and relativism to the narrative.

Broke is the culmination of brushstrokes, painting together gambling addiction, domestic violence, alcohol abuse and disappointment into a complete portrait of the modest life in rural Australia. The final result is something that prods at the empathy of those outside the glass tank. It’s a story most Australians would find some profound connection with, and Davis is very Lynchian in breaking down the walls to these lower-middle class stories. The narrative is very well crafted, the characters and constant colloquialisms are near perfect in maintaining the style and atmosphere of the film.

There’s a nice mix of shots to Broke, the conventional collages of Australian landscapes and suburbs to the more radical shots whenever BK seems to be pulling back to his former self. The pokie room scenes feel close and tangible with the eyes of some unorthodox perspective shots, if not slightly reminiscent of Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly. Steve Le Marquand performs brilliantly, maintaining his atmosphere of uncertainty, making him difficult to predict and the entire town feels organic and natural, like some place you might have been.

Broke succeeds in straying from the conventional redemption narrative, and flies the flag for every rural story ever lived.

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Broke is showing at the Gold Coast Film Festival. To find out more about the film and screening details for it, click here.

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